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OT(?): Old Wood-Handle Screwdrivers - Worth Saving?

Grey Rider

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Location
Dayton, OH
I was recently given some old hand tools, among which were some wood-handled screwdrivers. Several were made by Mac, some have no identifying marks.

I'm wondering whether, in general, these are worth cleaning up and putting into service. Or are they just old junk?

-Ryan
 

LKeithR

Stainless
Joined
Sep 1, 2011
Location
Langley, B.C.
Well, if they're "good" screwdrivers--meaning that the blades are of good quality steel--there's no reason why you can't use them. Even if you never use them they could have some value as "antiques". Some of the ones I see at flea markets and the like are priced pretty high--whether they sell or not I don't know...
 

L Vanice

Diamond
Joined
Feb 8, 2006
Location
Fort Wayne, IN
When I was buying tools from a local Mac dealer, I traded several of the wood handle screwdrivers for the modern plastic handle equivalent. The old blade needs to be twisted, broken or worn. They were selling wood handle screwdrivers fairly recently, so they might not be terribly old. The older ones are stamped "Mac Sabina, Ohio" on the metal ferrule. The newer ones are printed in white "Mac" on the wood. Mac screwdrivers are fine quality and worth saving. Snap-on had a different policy, in which you get a new blade fitted to your old handle. Larry
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
There's wood, and there's wood.

Some are just a wood handle. I'd generally consider those marginal to junk, unless they have antique value.

Others are wood "cheeks" fitted to a metal frame integral with the shank and blade. Those are tough, and are particularly useful for the various "off-label" uses for screwdrivers, because you can hit the metal end of the handle, etc, etc. You can also replace the wood with the type of choice, and get a stylish tool. A woodworker might have ones with some exotic wood inserted....
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
JST

That style with the metal frame and wooden cheeks is called a "Perfect Handle" tool. It was somebody's trademark at one time (? H. B. Smith ?) Darn trouble is, they invite abuse! Most of the ones I've found at flea markets are bent. Irwin was making these until fairly recently and may still be making them. Some of them have square shanks so you can get a wrench on them.

IMHO, screwdrivers with wooden handles are comfortable to use. The shape of the handle makes it less likely that you will snap off a screw. There is definitely such a thing as getting too good a grip on a screwdriver handle.

A commonly-seen type of wooden-handled screwdriver is the Stanley Yankee style whose steel ferrules are an eye-pleasing cone shape. A variant, the Stanley Hurwood screwdrivers, have a steel reinforcement inside the wood handle.

The really, really classy wooden-handled screwdrivers are the ones that came with "cased" firearms. Some of them are works of art.

So, they can be rugged or ornate and they can be very practical. As they say "What's not to like?"

John Ruth
Never chuck out good tools. Give them to young people just starting out.
 

SteveM

Diamond
Joined
Sep 22, 2005
Location
Connecticut
That style with the metal frame and wooden cheeks is called a "Perfect Handle" tool. It was somebody's trademark at one time (? H. B. Smith ?)

I have some of those. They can last forever. Here's what they look like:
171688.jpg


Never chuck out good tools. Give them to young people just starting out.

I just gave a toolbox full of tools to a kid who will be starting in the machinist program at the local vo-tech school. The deal he was given was that as he replaces these tools with better ones, he has to give the old one to a new kid coming in.

Steve
 

jim rozen

Diamond
Joined
Feb 26, 2004
Location
peekskill, NY
One of my favorite screwdrivers has a wooden handle. It was in my grandfather's house
when we cleaned it out.

I had to gently re-grind the tip on it, but it's good steel and reminds me of him every
time I use it.
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
Short screwdrivers (like the "perfect handle" pic) should be outlawed..... #1 cause of stripped out slot-head screws.

Old-time screwdrivers were LONG, because the folks who made them KNEW that you would move your hand around as you turned them. Long handles, smaller angle, less chance of angling up out of the slot. Most all of the "perfect handle" drivers I have seen are quite long for their size.

Longest driver I have is one 24" long, made by Cornwell. It has a square shank, and a 5/8" wide blade. Not a "perfect handle", it has a regular plastic handle.

#2 cause of stripping (only because most all drivers are too short these days) is using a blade too short for the slot. Should fill the slot end to end, and be snug side to side.

The right tool works very well. The wrong tool does not.
 

John Garner

Titanium
Joined
Sep 1, 2004
Location
south SF Bay area, California
JST --

I couldn't disagree more, on two counts: 1) From what I've seen, the leading cause of stripped screwheads is ignorant and/or lazy operators who try to use a driver that doesn't fit the screwhead right. A little driver in a bit slot, or vise-versa, doesn't seem to matter much, and it's every bit as much of a problem with slotted heads, Phillips heads, Torx heads, and Allen heads, although in the last case failure to stick the driver all the way into the recess may be an even more common operator error than using a wrong-sized driver. 2) The old-time commercial screwdriver makers not only made long-shank screwdrivers, they made screwdrivers having big tips, short and thick shanks, and beefy handles, and they called these screwdrivers "machinist screwdrivers". SteveM's Federal is representative of the "Perfect Handle" class of machinist screwdrivers (and, incidentally, the very nicest Federal screwdriver I've seen), and there were two other classes of machinist screwdriver, with conventional handles (Bridgeport Hardware machinist screwdrivers were, in my opinion, the queens of their ball), and the all-metal class made by Billings & Spencer, Herbrand, Vlchek, Fairmount, and maybe a few others. Having been unable to readily locate NOS machinist screwdrivers, I've made my own by severely shortening the shanks of reputable-maker square-shank screwdrivers with plastic handles. Their sizes? 1/8 inch tip x 1 inch shank, 3/16 inch tip x 1 1/2 inch shank, 1/4 inch tip x 2 inch shank, 5/16 inch tip x 2 1/2 inch shank, and 3/8 inch tip x 3 inch shank, all with rubber-grip plastic handles. I've been using them since the early 1970s, and I have yet to strip out a screw head with any of them.

John
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
I have an old Stanley with a wood handle in my toolbox. The handle is 360 degree wood with a cone ferrule and exposed steel on top the handle for beating on it.

I've had that screwdriver for 15 years and beat the snot out of it. Looks/works good still.

I like the wood handles.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
Screw Slot Sizess = Wire Gauge Sizes?

In response to JST's post:

Best explanation I've yet seen as to why older screwdrivers tend to be longer ! The really old ones are called "turnscrews". They are made of a flat plate, often with a fancy profile. The handles are often ovoid or elliptical in cross section. (I hope I am using the right word: "ovoid" meaning shaped like an oval.)

Regarding screw slot widths, I have read (can't recall where!) that the width of a WOOD screw slot is supposed to be a wire gauge size. Unfortunately, I cannot recall which wire gauge standard - there are, or were, several wire gauge standards in use in the USA and Great Britain. The reference where I saw this was written in English but could have been either USA or Gt. Britain. Can anyone help nail this down?

If I have this right, we should be grinding or filing our straight slot screwdrivers to a standard.

Garwood:

Look at the conical ferrule of your screwdriver for a Stanley model number and/or the words "Yankee" or "Hurwood" Stanley had some patents on methods of fastening wood handles to screwdrivers.

General:

There are "imitations" of just about every tool on the market. Perhaps those who have a strong negative impression of wooden handled screwdrivers have been exposed only to the low-quality ones. Here's an example of a good quality wooden handle set:

Grace USA Gun Care Screwdriver Set - product summary - Bing Shopping

I have seen cheap imitations of this style which have soft blades.....if I'd only seen the imitations, I would think that this style is junk.

John Ruth
 

magneticanomaly

Titanium
Joined
Mar 22, 2007
Location
On Elk Mountain, West Virginia, USA
I have a number of "pefect handle" screwdrivers, and even a couple of cylindrical-handle tang-type that expose the steel at the back of the handle

Hammering a screwdriver is not necessarily and always off-label. It is one of the best ways to loosen really stuck screws, and a plastic handle absorbs too much of the shock, and a wooden one without the steel exposed at the back end will quickly split if hammered.

But keep the ones with exposed metal out of your electrician's kit!

In addition to mis-fit, other reasons for slot stripping include poor regrinding. If the thickness of the blade tapers to the end, it will tend to cam-out, and this must be resisted by a lot of down-pressure. When I regrind screwdrivers I always try to hollow-grind them so sides of the very tip are nearly parallel.

And a question for the screwdriver aficionadi: Is there a good reason for the typical "keystone" profile of screwdriver tips? I think parallel edges are called, "cabinet tip", and I often regrind mine this way, so they will fit better in narrow places.
 

Joe in NH

Diamond
Joined
Jul 28, 2007
Location
Stratham, Cow Hampshire
For a while Brookstone, Inc was selling reproductions of these "perfect handle" screwdrivers. Available in three sizes they differed from the original in the name imprint on the wooden handle (Brookstone instead of Perfect) and the Brookstone version was missing an imprint triangle on the blade indicating in the triangle the size of screwdriver (some originals were apparently available in "sizes.")

The repops are NOT made with the same level of quality of the "knife handle" originals. The steel wasn't that good and I found it wouldn't hold an edge for sharpening the screwdriver. See http://www.popularwoodworking.com/t...ed-perfect-handle-screwdrivers-–-tough-enough for some discussion on this.

And some discussion of the originals/repops and their various makers. http://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/joinery/h-d-smith-screwdrivers-–-not-neighborly

Joe in NH
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
Correction to Post #6 : H.D. Smith, not "H.B. Smith"

Ladies and Gents, a correction to my Post #6:

The originator of the "Perfect Handle" tools is H.D. Smith, (not "H.B. Smith")

A brief search of eBay using the search terms Perfect Handle" brings up pictures of a wide variety of tools with this style of handle. Some of the screwdrivers have "wings" on the side of the metal frame for additional torque. The ultimate seems to be Perfect Handle screwdrivers with aluminum, rather than wooden, handle scales.

In addition to the H.D. Smith, Irwin, and Brookstone tools previously mentioned in this thread, it is common to encounter Perfect Handle tools marked simply "Germany" or "Made in Germany". These, I believe, were made between the World Wars. a time in which many German tools were imported into the US. Some of these German examples have a hexagonal feature at the base of the handle so that you can apply extra (excess?) torque with a wrench.

Here's a pointer to some currently-available screwdrivers which the forum may find to be of interest, as they are inspired by antique tools;

Lie-Nielsen Toolworks USA | Screwdrivers

John Ruth
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
Garwood,

Found this on the Davistown Museum site, giving the number and the date of the relevant patent:

"Drop-forged steel, wood, 4 1/8" long, signed "Stanley Hurwood Pat April 01 Made in USA".

"Shortly after George Wood was granted the above patent (no. 671,039) on 2 April 1901, he went into business with John Hurley to

manufacture screwdrivers. They set up a shop in Plantsville, Connecticut, and named the new company using their last names. The founding

of the Hurwood Manufacturing Company marked the beginning of the 11 solid bar screwdriver." The company was sold to the Stanley Rule &

Level Co. in 1904 (Jacob, June 2002, The Chronicle).

(The reference to The Chronicle is the The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association.)

John Ruth
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
JST --

I couldn't disagree more, on two counts:
John

Oh, I covered the too small driver deal also... that was reason #2 for stripped slots.

But a long driver is a pleasure to use.... makes you realize that slotted screws are in fact NOT the stupidest design on earth, as they seem to be if you use the wrong driver.....
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
MagneticAnomally asked:

"And a question for the screwdriver aficionadi: Is there a good reason for the typical "keystone" profile of screwdriver tips? I think parallel edges are called, "cabinet tip", and I often regrind mine this way, so they will fit better in narrow places. "

The thickness of the blade tapers. (It should not - see post #14 - it would be best if the blade did not taper, as the taper causes the blade to "cam out" of the slot") The reason for the keystone profile MIGHT be that the width of the tip becomes greater as grinding causes the thickness to become greater. The thicker tip fits only larger screws which have wider slots.

If WOOD screw slot widths are really wire gauges as mentioned in Post #13, then there might be a mathematical relationship between the taper of the tip and the keystone profile, such that when the tip is ground back to the next-larger wire gauge, the keystone has guaranteed that the width of the tip will now match the wider slot of the larger screw.

Then again, a more likely explanation is that the keystone profile is merely decorative, as the same keystone profile appears on antique turnscrews whose blades are made from flat plate.

John Ruth
 








 
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